Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Kosmos 1998

Awards: none



Released in Spring 1998, "Durch die Wüste" is the latest game made by Reiner Knizia, reknown author of some great tactic-games. "Durch die Wüste" is set up somewhere in the african desert, and each player assumes the role of a chief of a desert-tribe. The desert is roamed by a horde of free camels and these only differ by the colour of their coat. Since having camels means riches for an inhabitant of the desert, the players try to capture most animals of each different camel-group. But since the desert doesnīt offer many treasures and water is always low itīs one of the most important tasks to get access to as many waterholes as possible, and perhaps even reach an oasis. And if a player should succeed in shutting off an area of the desert from the other players, he may declare it as being his land and search it for valuable gems....

At the beginning of the game each player owns one camel of each of the five colours. Starting with the youngest player, each player clockwise puts a camel on a free space on the gameboard. For this placement procedure certain restrictions apply. So a player may not put one of his camels next to another player, he may not occupy a waterhole from the beginning and he may not put a camel next to an oasis. Already this placement phase is very important for the game, since a clever distribution of the camels all over the desert will decide much of the playerīs prospects for the rest of the game. After all camels were placed, the main-phase of the game begins.

Again starting with the youngest player, the players clockwise take their turns in order to gain a dominating position in the desert. During his turn, a player may pick up two camels of any colour from the camel-stockpiles next two the gameboard. This camels the player may place next to his own camels of the same colour. So if he picks up a green and a pink camel, he may place the green camel next to his other(s) green camel(s), and the pink one is positioned likewise. The positioning of the camels in the desert is the main strategic element of the game. By placement of the camels, a player may try to score victory points in different categories. So a player may place a camel on a waterhole and remove the waterhole form the gameboard, adding itīs value (1-3 Victory Points) to his total. Or he may put a camel next to an oasis, giving him 5 additional victory points. These two kinds are the basic Victory Points which can be scored during the game, but additional points will be given at the end of the game. While placing additional camels, a player only is restricted by placing a camel at a free space only by camels of the same colour owned by another player. Two camel hordes of the same colour owned by different players always must keep at least one space apart, thus making it possible to see which camels belong to which player. No other restrictions are imposed on the player, leaving many different tactics for consideration. So a player can decide to bring many different of his hordes next to an oasis, giving him 5 Victory Points for each horde reaching the oasis, or a player may even try to fence off a part of the desert using camels of one of his colours. If a player should succeed to fence off a part of the desert, he may instantly pick up all waterholes in that area and he may collect 5 Victory Points for each oasis. But to do this, no camel of another colour or player may be in this area. The game continues with each player placing two camels of his choice until one of the camel colours is used up. The game ends here.

In order to find the winner, each player first adds up all waterholes and Oasis-markers he has collected. Next the players look which player has most camels of each colour, and the player who has used most camels of a colour receives 10 additional victory points. Finally the players look for any fenced off areas on the gameboard, and a player gains one additional Victory Points for each free space on the gameboard he has succeeded to fence off. Then all players get their totals and the plaer with most Victory Points wins the game.

Well, "Durch die Wüste" certainly is a game which is hard to evaluate properly. First off, a playerīs eye is disturbed by the "unusual" camel-colours, but already the rules say that these unnatural colours are needed in order to keep the hordes on the gameboard apart. The strategic mechanism in the game is typically for a Knizia game, since the player can chose between different ways to score points but he must always try to keep up in as many scoring possibilities as possible. One of the main weaknesses of the game is itīs hidden score. Players may try to memorize the scores other players get, but they never have full control over the fact who is leading the game. In a way, this doesnīt quite correspond to a tactical game. You may have this kind of "surprise" at normal luck-based family boardgames, but I donīt feel that this scoring mechanism is right for a tactical game. In a tactical game of this kind the players should easily see who is leading and thus be able to adjust their plans. Another point is the direct control of the players on the gameīs ending by placing the last camels of a colour. This is a highly tactical move, but to decide whether to do it the players have to evaluate the situation on the gameboard for some minutes in order to decide whether they have a chance of winning. Especially in a multiplayer-game this evaluation of a players score takes much time during the last turns of the game. Positively remarkable is the good two-player mode of the game. The game is perfectly playable with two players, without any twisting of rules.

Nonetheless, I think that Reiner Knizia could have done a better game on the interesting theme of exploiting the desert...

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

[Gamebox Index]


Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany